Hampden Great House, 2021 Release


Jamaican rum week began on Monday with a 15 yo Long Pond and continued on Wednesday with a 16 yo Worthy Park. Here now to close out the week is a Hampden, albeit one that does not bear an age statement. This is Hampden’s third annual release in their “Great House” series. I’ve previously reviewed the 2020 release, which I liked a lot. At the time of that review I’d made a mental note to try to find the 2021 release when it came out, but it’s not a mental note I remembered to read often. Then again, it probably wouldn’t have mattered. Very few interesting rums come to Minnesota and with inter-state shipping of spirits now as difficult as international shipping I probably wouldn’t have been able to buy a bottle even if I’d looked for one. (This is where someone will tell me it was available at my local Total Wine.) Anyway, I did get to it via a bottle split and that’s better than nothing. If I like it will I actually remember to look for the 2022 release? I don’t think it’s out yet. Continue reading

Worthy Park 16, 2005, Rum (Thompson Bros.)


Jamaican rum week continues. On Monday I reviewed a 15 yo Long Pond that I liked a lot and which I said reminded me of rum from Worthy Park. And today I have a 16 yo Worthy Park. Well, I don’t think it was bottled with that name on the label but that is the distillery in question. This was a single cask bottled by the Thompson brothers of Dornoch Castle fame for K&L in California. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a Worthy Park I didn’t like—I don’t mean to give the impression that I’ve tried so very many of them. Let’s hope this won’t be the first.

Worthy Park 16, 2005, Rum (54%; Thompson Bros.; from a sample split)

Nose: Oh yes, quite a bit more funk in this one with motor oil, diesel and just a whiff of ripe garbage heap. Quite a bit of aniseed on the second sniff. As it sits there’s more fruit—dried tangerine peel—along with cinnamon and clove and quite a bit of caramel. With a lot of time and air the caramel lightens a bit and picks up some toffee and some plum sauce. A few drops of water and it seems to get sort of…flat: the funk and the fruit recede and are replaced by brown sugar. Continue reading

Long Pond 15, 2005 (ImpEx Collection)


Now, Long Pong is not generally a misnomer for a Jamaican rum but that’s a typo on the sample label. The name of the distillery is Long Pond. It was once one of hundreds of Jamaican rum distilleries, its history—like those of all distilleries in the Caribbean—going back uneasily a few hundred years through the horrors of sugar plantation slavery and the triangular trade. If there’s a history of Caribbean rum that looks closely at its fundamental connections with the history of colonialism and slavery and their post/neo-colonial reverberations, I haven’t come across it. My sense is that the rum world is as quiet about this complicated history as the American bourbon industry is, but I may be wrong about that: if a book about this exists, I would be very interested to read it (please write in below). Anyway, almost all of those Jamaican distilleries are now gone. Long Pond itself—one of the last survivors—was closed in 2012 before being reopened in 2017. I gather it may now be producing again. The rum I am reviewing today, however, was distilled before that closure, in 2005. This cask was bottled in 2021 by the California-based importer ImpEx. It’s my first Long Pond and I am curious to see where it will fall on the funk spectrum between Hampden and Worthy Park, the two Jamaican distilleries I do have some experience of. Let’s get to it. Continue reading

Grander Rum 11, Islay Peat Finish


Okay, for the first full week of reviews in March let’s do a week of things that are not single malt whisky. I’ll start with a rum that has an unlikely whisky connection. As we all know, it’s not very unusual anymore to see whiskies that have been “finished” or double matured in rum casks. What I have for you today, however, is something that goes in the opposite direction: it’s rum that was finished in an Islay cask. The rum in question is from Panama, though I believe Grander is the brand name of an independent bottler rather than a distiller. This rum was matured for 10 years in an ex-bourbon cask—which is fairly par for the course for rum—but then finished for an additional year in an Islay cask (the rumour is that the cask in question was from Ardbeg). As to where the finishing happened—at the distillery in Panama or elsewhere, I’m not sure. It’s a bit embarrassing that I don’t know, considering I’m a member of the private group for which this was bottled. I will make it my life’s work to find this out sometime in the next 10 days to 10 years. In the meantime, here are my notes on this chimerical creature. (The bottle was opened a while ago; these notes are from my fourth or fifth pour.) Continue reading

Golden Devil Dark Overproof Rum


This week’s theme: things that aren’t single malt whiskies. First up, a rum.

I haven’t reviewed very many rums on the blog; rarely going over 1 review per year. And all the rums I have reviewed have been from single distilleries. This one’s the exception. It is a blend of Jamaican pot still and Guyanese column still rums. The age and identities of the constituent rums are unknown to me. This was bottled for K&L in California a few years ago and went for the low, low price of $20. I have a horrible feeling that I am going to deeply regret having waited more than three years since receiving this sample from Sku to review it.

Golden Devil Dark Overproof Rum (57%; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Molasses and (over-ripe) plantains and a slight rubbery note off the top and then the funk begins to come through bringing some diesel with it. Burnt caramel as it sits and a slight mossy note emerges as well. The funk recedes as it sits and it’s the plantains and caramel that dominate. A few drops of water push the funk back further and pull out some vanilla and aniseed. Continue reading

Foursquare Redoubtable (Rum)


To close out Rum Week here is another Foursquare (see here for the previous). I have to admit I am not really on top of Foursquare’s special releases. I know that in addition to the vintage releases they put out some others with names that probably make the marketing braintrust at Dalmore gnash their teeth in envy. This one here is one of those non-vintage releases from 2020. It’s made from a blend of pot still and column still distilled rum. All of it is 14 years old, apparently, but some was aged entirely in ex-madeira casks and some in ex-bourbon casks. Was it half and half? I’m not sure. Anyway, this might be my first wine-bothered rum. I hope I enjoy it more than I do most wine-bothered whiskies.

Foursquare Redoubtable (61%; ex-bourbon and madeira casks; from a bottle split)

Nose: Rich with a mix of rummy and winey notes. As it sits the wine seems to trump the rum and there’s more leather and spicy wood. Begins to soften as it sits and there’s toffee and caramel and the whole gets sweeter. Rummier with water; the caramel darkens a bit, the toffee expands and there’s a bit of maple syrup too. A bit more water and it gets a bit dusty but also develops some orange peel. Continue reading

Hampden Great House, Distillery Edition, 2020 (Rum)


At some point in the last few years Hampden, the great, idiosyncratic Jamaican rum distillery, got into the business of special annual releases. I believe this one, which came out in 2020, was the second. I’m not sure if one has yet been released in 2021. I believe this is a somewhat unusual Hampden in that it is a blend that contains mostly low-ester spirit. So less wild than usual? Let’s see.

Hampden Great House, Distillery Edition, 2020 (59%; from a bottle split)

Nose: Ah yes, this is a Hampden: assertive, leading with bright notes of over-ripe banana, pineapple and lemon; herbal notes bring up the rear. What’s missing here is the usual heap of garbage rotting in the sun; well, it’s not completely missing but it’s not very loud. As it sits it picks up some light caramel and some toffee and quite a bit of diesel. The caramel expands with time and the diesel retreats. Okay, let’s add water: richer now as the caramel and toffee expand and are joined by brown sugar and the bananas get baked into banana bread. More conventional rum notes now but it’s quite lovely. Continue reading

Foursquare 12, 2005 (Rum)


It’s been a while since my last review of a rum; a year in fact (this Worthy Park). And it’s been even longer since my last review of a rum from Foursquare, the Barbados distillery. That was of the 11 yo release of the 2004 vintage, a bottle I liked a lot—enough in fact to buy several more of after that first encounter. Today I have for you a review of the release of the 2005 vintage. It’ll be the first of three rum reviews this week. Like the 2004 it was bottled at 59% abv and made without any addition of sugar or other additives. And it’s also a blend of pot still and column distilled rums and matured in ex-bourbon casks. It is, however, a year older. Will that make for a big difference in the profile? Let’s see.

Foursquare 12, 2005 (59%; from a bottle split)

Nose: Comes in sweet with caramel and molasses; just a hint of aniseed in the back. Some toffee too on the second sniff and the aniseed expands and picks up some herbal backing (sage). Gets sweeter as it sits (ripe plantain). Brighter with a few drops of water and there’s a bit of milk chocolate now along with an almost smoky note. Continue reading

Worthy Park 10, 2005 (Habitation Velier)


After two 16 yo Caronis bottled by Duncan Taylor (here and here), let’s move over to Jamaica and a 10 yo Worthy Park bottled by Habitation Velier. Most of the excitement among whisky geeks for Jamaican rum seems concentrated in the wild and wacky rums of the Hampden distillery but Worthy Park has a strong reputation too. Indeed, I have a hundred percent record with Worthy Park. I’ve only had and reviewed two others—this 10 yo from 2007 and this 11 yo from 2005—and I had them both at 90 points. Will that streak continue with this 10 yo? I certainly hope so.

Worthy Park 10, 2005 (57.8%; Habitation Velier; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: A bright nose with lemon peel mixed in with plantains. Some vegetal funk behind the brighter notes. The lemon picks up with time and there’s a bit of butterscotch as well. With a few drops of water the softer notes expand—more butterscotch—and there’s sweeter fruit now too—apricot. Gets stickier as it goes. Continue reading

Caroni 16, 1997, Cask 115 (Duncan Taylor)


On Monday I reviewed a Caroni 16, 1997. That was cask 87. Today I have a review of another Caroni 16, 1997. This one is cask 115. As per the source of both samples (the prodigiously bearded Michael K.), both casks were filled and bottled on the same dates, differing only slightly in outturn (270 bottles for #87, 258 for #115) and even more slightly in abv (#87 was at 55.1%). As you may remember, I really liked cask 87. Will this be as good? I hope so.

Caroni 16, 1997, Cask 115 (55.4%; Duncan Taylor; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Brighter off the bat than cask 87 with less caramel and more citrus (orange peel, lemon). On the second sniff the citrus moves in the direction of marmalade and there are some notes of toffee and butterscotch as well; a faintly smoky note as well. Less oak here as well than in cask 87 and it’s less herbal—at least at the start. With more air and time the citrus is still here but it ‘s now hard candy rather than marmalade it calls to mind. A few drops of water make it sweeter and push the herbal notes back further. Continue reading

Caroni 16, 1997, Cask 87 (Duncan Taylor)


After a week of brandy let’s do a week of rum.

First up is the first of two casks of Caroni 16, 1987 bottled by Duncan Taylor in 2014. Caroni is the highly-regarded distillery on Trinidad (now deceased) whose rums now fetch kings’ ransoms. These casks, however, were bottled for the US market and because the rum revolution among whisky drinkers hadn’t manifested itself yet in the US in 2014 they apparently hung around for a few years at fairly reasonable prices (sub-$100, I believe). I was among the whisky drinkers who wasn’t paying attention to rum then and so I had no idea. Luckily for me, Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls purchased bottles of both and recently sent me samples. He hasn’t reviewed them himself so I can’t pilfer his notes and change a few words as I usually do. I’ve previously reviewed a 15 yo which I liked but did not think was amazing. Let’s see if I like this one better. Continue reading

Stolen Overproof Rum (Hampden)

Despite our greater proximity to the Caribbean, the US gets far less interesting rums from the region than does Europe. The rum revolution (well, sort of) that took portions of the single malt enthusiast market by storm in the last half decade was centered almost entirely on releases from European bottlers. Well, here finally is one that was released exclusively in the US. It’s got one of those silly names that makes you think Diageo might be involved but the word on the street is that this is a 6 yo Hampden. The bottles are 375 ml and still available and very reasonably priced (<$25/bottle in many markets). That means there’s a good chance this will be the best value of any booze I’ve reviewed this year: I’ve not had many Hampdens but all the ones I’ve had have been great. Hampden rum, with its dunder-fueled, high ester spirit, had also until recently been the funkiest spirit I’d willingly put in my mouth but that crown has since been passed to the two marcs I tried in the last month and a half (especially this Jacoulot). Will this seem tame now? Continue reading

Caroni 15, 1997 (A.D. Rattray)


And now a break from bourbon cask whisky and indeed from all whisky. This is a rum—though as I think about it, it’s quite likely it too was matured in a bourbon cask. The distillery in question is Caroni, a very big name in the rum renaissance of the last decade. Caroni has been referred to by whisky geeks as the “Port Ellen of rum”, not least because it too has closed (in 2002). Now you might think that calling something “the Port Ellen of x” would mean that it was being sold at a king’s ransom but that was not true of this cask when it was bottled by A.D. Rattray in 2012. I believe it went for about $50. I’m sure it would be a very different story these days.

Caroni was located in Trinidad. I know nothing about the usual profile of Trinidadian rums—I don’t even know if there is a usual profile in Trinidadian rum—and so I will not be able to tell you if this cask of Caroni is representative or not of Trinidad rum. And as it may well be the first Caroni I’ve had I can’t even tell you how representative it is of Caroni’s own rum. Now that you know just how uninformative this review will be, let’s get to it! Continue reading

Enmore 25, 1992 (Golden Devil for K&L)


Yesterday I reviewed a 19 yo Golden Devil exclusive rum for K&L. That one was from Guadeloupe. For this review let’s leap over to Guyana and go up a few years in age. This is a 25 yo Enmore, referred to by some—and few less enthusiastically as the people selling it—as the Port Ellen of rum. I’m not really sure what that means. Enmore and Port Ellen are closed distilleries but so is Dallas Dhu; why is Enmore not the Dallas Dhu of rum? I demand answers! But seriously, you can’t expect me to get excited about something that’s not the Pappy of its category—Driscoll must have been slacking on the job that day.

The history of the Enmore distillery and of Guyanese rum in general is complicated. All the Guyanese distilleries were consolidated into one in the mid-1990s and even before that Enmore produced both column still and pot still rum. This particular release is a single cask of pot still rum and it was bottled at a whopping strength of 63%. I have, as it happens, had another 25 yo Enmore bottled for K&L—that one was from their less fancy Faultline label (is that still on the go?) but I liked it a fair bit. Will this be as good? Let’s see. Continue reading

Bellevue 19, 1998 (Golden Devil for K&L)


From Cognac to rum. This is another K&L selection and another sample from Sku. I know only a little more about rum than I do about Cognac and so I can tell you that Bellevue is a distillery in Guadeloupe (a word that is very hard to spell late at night) but I cannot tell you very much more than that. This was also bottled by Hunter Laing in their Golden Devil series—I think that’s the name used for their Kill Devil line in the US (is that because there’s an American producer named Kill Devil?). Anyway, I know nothing about the characteristics of Guadeloupean rum and so am curious to see what this is like. Let’s find out.

Bellevue 19 (59.7%; Golden Devil; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: A little blank at first but then there’s a pretty standard if muted dark rum profile laced with aniseed and an herbal character (sage?). As it sits it begins to open up with more caramel. Let’s see what water does. Not very much really—no interesting change to report. Continue reading

Worthy Park 10, 2007 (Habitation Velier)


Here is your second rum review for the week. Like Monday’s rum this is from the Worthy Park distillery in Jamaica. It is a year younger and was distilled two years later. The label says it was “aged in the tropics”, presumably in Jamaica before being bottled by Habitation Velier, an Italian outfit that has become one of the bespoke independent bottlers of high quality rums made without artificial flavouring and colouring and so on. Excitingly, this was one of a few releases that made their way to the US in 2018. I purchased this along with another Worthy Park and a Hampden from Astor Wines & Spirits in New York; I’m not sure if they were more widely available as well. At any rate, wherever they were available, I hope they sold out quickly, thus encouraging Velier and any other bottlers who may be watching about the prospects of selling non-mainstream rum in the American market. God knows we’re closer to the Caribbean than is Italy—there should be a way to get us more good rum. Then again it’s not even possible to have booze shipped to me from Illinois, just one state over from Minnesota…Anyway, let’s see if this is as good as Monday’s excellent Cadenhead release. Continue reading

Worthy Park 11, 2005 (Cadenhead’s)


More rum but not from a distillery I’ve reviewed before. This is from Worthy Park, like Hampden, a Jamaican distillery. The distillery has a long history but not a continuous one. It stopped distilling in 1960 and only started up again in 2005 with brand new facilities (see here for more on the distillery). This means this particular rum was produced in the first year of the distillery’s revival. It was bottled 11 years later by Cadenhead in Scotland. I’m not sure when Scottish and other European bottlers began to carry rum in a big way but I can only imagine that this has been a boon for the revitalized distilleries of the Caribbean. Now if only more of these rums would be available in the US. I purchased a 200 ml bottle from Cadenhead’s Edinburgh store last June and have been looking forward to tasting it. My only other exposure to Jamaican rum has been through a few wild releases of Hampden and I am curious to see how much of that character is shared by Worthy Park.
Continue reading

Foursquare 11, 2004


Speaking of things I have been buying but not reviewing, here is a rum. I’ve not reviewed very many rums and most of those that I have have been insane Hampdens from Jamaica. This is a rum from Barbados. Foursquare—like Hampden–is a working distillery but unlike it, has an official presence in the US. A number of rums from the distillery have been released here and they’ve been fairly  priced. This 11 yo from 2004 is still available and can be found in the $60 range. That may seem like a very high price to those who’re accustomed to thinking of rum as a rough spirit to be mixed with Coke but this is a good sipping rum, and the price is very good compared to a lot of single malt whisky. The Springbank 12 CS, for example, goes for $80. This rum is, I believe, a blend of pot and column still distilled rums and like all of Foursquare’s rums is made without the addition of sugar or any other sweeteners prior to bottling. It’s one I really enjoy and it’s about time I posted a review.  Continue reading